On an ordinary workday last week, strident sirens pierced our routine and for a few jarring minutes reminded all of us, throughout the country, of the dangers that lurk ominously beneath our run-of-the-mill existence.
The civil defense exercise simulated massive rocket barrages on packed urban centers with an eye to practice responses to missile onslaughts from Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza – in every corner of Israel and at all hours of the day and night.
Air raid sirens sounded midday to test preparedness in workplaces and schools. Another siren in the evening gauged preparedness in the homes. In both cases, the public was asked to locate the closest secure room and/or bomb shelter.
In theory, this was a worthy undertaking but in practice much of this dry run missed the mark – most of the population ignored the appeals to drill evacuations to safe spaces.
But that was to be expected. Most folks prefer to put out of mind hypothetical perils, no matter how realistic or colossal these are. It is only human nature and all the more so in a small, besieged state that has to struggle for the semblance of normalcy.
At times, even our self-deception is tinged with the heroic – the ability to persevere and carry on regardless of our menacing environment. That, more often than not, means repression of apprehensions.
Finding the golden mean between preparedness and perseverance is predictably no mean feat. But worse than the nonchalance at home is the cold apathy abroad.
It is doubtful that more than a few opinion-molders throughout the international community so much as begin to comprehend the alarming dangers that surround us and under which we labor.
Certainly no country in the Western world is exposed to anything remotely resembling the threats we face, be they of nuclear attack from the ayatollahs of Tehran or of a rain of conventional rockets from Iran’s proxies – Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
It is also worth recalling that Syria possesses particularly terrifying arsenals. The bloodshed and chaos in Damascus only heighten the uncertainty regarding what would become of this weaponry of mass destruction or how it might be used and by whom.
No attention is paid abroad to contingency master plans here to convert underground parking facilities into multistoried mega-shelters outfitted to offer protection to thousands of Israelis in a variety of doomsday scenarios – nuclear, chemical and conventional.
These parking facilities are equipped with such seemingly incongruous features as decontamination showers in case of a chemical attack, filters against an assortment of unconventional WMDs and emergency medical clinics for triage and first-aid to casualties.
That such complexes are deemed necessary in the 21st century speaks volumes. Nothing like this should be plausible where meaningful peace processes are ostensibly considered credible.
The very fact that such dry-run rehearsals are indispensable, to say nothing of their specificities and scope, attests to the fact that we are highly endangered, live in a high-risk zone and have good reason to prepare for circumstances quite different from peace. Were we surrounded by sincere peace partners, no such dire maneuvers would be required, while genuine compromises and coexistence would be eminently attainable.
This should be obvious to all objective observers overseas. Were the family of nations as high-minded as it professes to be, it would direct its righteous indignation against the undisguised menacing of a tiny democracy whose civilian population is vulnerable as no other.
That would be a true measure of moral statecraft.
Instead, however, a blind eye is willfully turned to the lethal stockpiles amassed against Israel while simultaneously unconscionable efforts are intensified to tarnish Israel, ostracize it and turn it into a global pariah.
This is not merely an issue of image and of public relations. The slandering and censoring of Israeli self-defense efforts diverts attention from the existential travails with which Israel must contend. Instead of bolstering the sole democracy in the Middle East, fellow democracies often weaken Israel.